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Ministers told to ‘act now’ as child poverty rates in Scotland remain high

More than one in five children in Scotland are living in poverty. (Dominic Lipinski/PA)
More than one in five children in Scotland are living in poverty. (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

The Scottish Government must ‘act now’ as child poverty remains ‘stubbornly’ high across Scotland amid cost-of-living pressures, campaigners have warned.

More than one in five children in Scotland is living in poverty despite temporary pandemic increases to universal credit, new research from the End Child Poverty Coalition has showed.

Research covering the period of 2020/21 shows Glasgow City and North Ayrshire have the highest percentage of children in poverty across local authorities, with 29.4% and 24.7% respectively.

Ministers have been praised for the Scottish child payment which will be increased to £25 for all eligible under-16s by the end of the year.

However, the coalition is now urging the Scottish Government to double the bridging payments which will be paid in October and December.

It helps bridge the gap for eligible children who are waiting for the increase to the child payment to be rolled out.

The group – made up of charities such as the Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, Save the Children and Poverty Alliance – are also urging the UK Government to ensure UK-wide benefits keep pace with inflation permanently.

Child poverty rates in the UK fell during the 2020/21 period, primarily because of the temporary Covid-19 universal credit uplift.

The research, conducted by Loughborough University on behalf of the coalition, also found that Scotland has lower levels of child poverty compared to England and Wales.

But campaigners say there can be no room for complacency if Scotland aims to meet its child poverty targets.

The Child Poverty (Scotland) Act requires the Scottish Government to ensure fewer than 18% of children are living in poverty by 2023/24, on course to achieving less than 10% by 2030.

Experts recently warned the Scottish Government would need “significant” and ongoing commitment to reach its 2030 target.

And the group wants action from all levels of government, with newly elected councillors urged to use local powers over housing and family support to maximise family incomes and reduce the cost pressures.

Ed Pybus, of the Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, said: “The figures show just how big a difference investment in social security can make, and how important the Scottish Government’s new Scottish child payment is and will continue to be if Scotland is to end the scandal of children living in poverty.

“Progress is being made but, as low-income families struggling to cope with spiralling prices know all too well, there is no room for complacency, and we need every level of Government to do its best to meet Scotland’s child poverty targets.”

He continued: “Here in Scotland, we urge newly elected councillors to use every tool at their disposal to boost family incomes and reduce the costs families face.

“That means using local powers to deliver more cash support to families, support decent jobs – especially women and those affected by disability, and improve access to high quality, free and accessible childcare.

“Finally, the Scottish Government should act now to double bridging payments in advance of the full roll out of the Scottish child payment to ensure school aged children get the same support as the under sixes who are already benefitting from the payment.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Ahead of the (Scottish child payment) extension to under-16s, we introduced bridging payments worth £520 annually to support around 145,000 school-age children.

“We’re set to put £150 million in pockets of low-income families through this additional support in both 2021 and 2022. These payments alongside our Best Start Grants and Best Start Foods are vital forms of financial support only available to families in Scotland.

“Social security alone cannot end child poverty – that is why our Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan also includes actions to support parents with employment and to reduce household costs.

“Through the 2022-23 Scottish Budget, almost £3 billion has been allocated to a range of support that will help mitigate the impact of the increased cost of living. This includes work to tackle child poverty, reduce inequalities and support financial wellbeing, alongside social security payments not available anywhere else in the UK.”

A UK Government spokesperson said: “We recognise people are struggling with rising prices which is why we are protecting the eight million most vulnerable families with at least £1,200 of direct payments, starting this week.”